Summary: A walk through the Tabernacle to give a quick outline of the lessons for us today.
I want you to imagine that you were travelling through the wilderness of Sinai thousands of years ago – 15th century B.C. You have heard about the people of Israel and how they left Egypt after a number of plagues and even wild stories that they walked safely through the Red Sea while the pursuing Egyptian armies were drowned. Although you don’t really believe these stories you decide to keep away from them as you travel.
One day you know they are close by because you can hear the noise of the thousands and thousands of people and all their animals. (There were 600,000 men plus women and children – Ex 12:37.) At night things got spooky because you could see a strange glow from the direction of their camp. (Ex 40:38, Num 9:15) You decided to investigate and, as you looked down on their camp from the safety of nearby hill this is what you might have seen.
It would have been an awesome sight. During the daytime too as a pillar of cloud rose from the strange tent. I wonder what Moses would have told you if you asked why had this tent and fenced off area around it in the middle of their camp and what caused the pillar of cloud and fire. Moses would doubtless have explained that he had been told to build it by God in a vision shown to him on Mt. Sinai – make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Ex 25:8
Tabernacle means tent, dwelling place or sanctuary. It was a sacred place where God chose to meet His people, the Israelites, during the 40 years they wandered in the desert under Moses’ leadership. It was the place where the leaders and people came together to worship and offer sacrifices. Moses would also have recalled how God’s glory settled on it once it was completed and set apart for His use and that this was shown in the pillars of fire and cloud that you had seen.
Six times we read that Moses had to make it exactly according to specification that God had given him. Ex 25:9 & 40, 26:30; Nu 8:4; Ac 7:44. The fourth is in our passage in Hebrews 8 where the tabernacle is described as a shadow of the heavenly things, and Moses was divinely instructed "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." Heb 8:5
Why was it so important that it was built exactly as God specified? It is because it is, in every detail, a picture of heavenly things. It was a gigantic visual aid to teach the Israelites about God and their relationship to Him. I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. Ex 29:45-46. Some see significance in every detail, even the tent pegs! While they may be right we won’t be going that far. I want us to take an overview of its construction and its spiritual meaning. We’ll do this by taking a journey from outside to the inner tent and we’ll briefly examine the things that we see as we go.
The outer fence Ex 27:9-18
The first thing that you see as you approach the tabernacle is a fence that is about 7 feet high (2.15m) made of linen hangings hung on pillars. It was a barrier God’s presence, as illustrated by the pillar of cloud or fire and the people. It reminds me that there is a barrier between each man, woman and Child and God. Like this fence, it is a man made barrier and is the result of our sin.
We were created to have fellowship with God, but stubbornly chose to go our own independent way, and our fellowship with God was broken. This sin can take the form of active rebellion against God and His standards or simply indifference. The Bible reminds us that All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23) and that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). As a consequence of our sin we die spiritually – we are separated from God – and eventually we die physically too.
The gate Ex 27:16
There was only one entrance to the inner area. You had to go through this gate to get inside. It was covered by a curtain or screen made of fine linen embroidered in blue, purple and scarlet. It didn’t matter who you were, if you wanted to get into God’s presence you had to go in through this gate. The rich and poor went in the same way, so did Aaron, the high priest, and the worst sinner; Moses the leader and the least important Israelite.